Six from six for Dublin as they dismiss Donegal challenge
Dublin 1-10 Donegal 0-7
It remains a remarkable statistic that in Jim Gavin’s time as Dublin manager, they’ve lost just one game beyond St Patrick’s Day.
Donegal, of course, inflicted that solitary defeat — out of 31 matches now played by the Dubs — in the 2014 Championship and came to Croke Park last night determined to dash another hole in that impressive record.
They came up well short though as a strong Dublin finish that included a 66th minute Philly McMahon goal earned a deserved six-point win, preserving their perfect Division 1 record.
Dublin sealed their sixth consecutive win of the campaign without defender James McCarthy, however, who was red carded in the 51st minute for a second booking. Michael Murphy was also dismissed for Donegal after igniting the incident with a dangerous slide challenge on Ciaran Kilkenny.
Dublin led by just a point at that stage but finished strong and, in the last 25 minutes, outscored Donegal by 1-5 to 0-1.
Donegal have had plenty of success over the last five years with a defence first strategy when playing Dublin and stuck to that script until the game became stretched late on.
Within seconds of throw-in, Rory Gallagher’s men were back defending with 14 men behind the ball, leaving only Paddy McBrearty in attack.
Eoin McHugh had a decent goal chance for Donegal in the second minute but it was generally tight and tactical and the first point didn’t arrive until the 12th minute.
Dublin fans booed Donegal early on as they set themselves up to suffocate the game and hit the hosts on the break.
But just like Tyrone and Derry in last year’s league campaign at Croke Park, Donegal had relative success with the system.
The Ulster outfit fell 0-3 to 0-1 down after 20 minutes but fought back to twice level up the game in front of 20,340.
Veteran duo Eamonn McGee and Rory Kavanagh strode forward to kick a point each for Donegal.
Dublin just about edged it at half-time, 0-5 to 0-4, and deserved to have their noses in front. The three-in-a-row league winners had two goal chances in the opening half as well as five wides so could have been further ahead. As it was, Dublin attacker and Man of the Match Kevin McManamon provided the yin to Donegal’s defensive yang with a couple of moments of inspiration that resulted in two points for Dublin.
The Dubs could be generally happy with their efforts after changing a third of their team from the win over Down.
As for Donegal, they brought Karl Lacey and Hugh McFadden in as late changes for Neil McGee and Neil Gallagher.
But the real intrigue surrounding the 2012 All-Ireland champions was the return of ex-AllStar Colm McFadden to the panel for the first time this year and he came on as a sub late on. Donegal led briefly after a good start to the second-half but three points in a row from Dublin returned them to pole position, where they stayed.
Both sides were reduced to 14 in the 51st minute, Murphy picking up his second yellow card for a slide challenge on Ciaran Kilkenny and McCarthy drawing the same sanction for an angry reaction.
Dublin ultimately finished strongest and were three clear when Paul Flynn and MacManamon combined to play in McMahon for the goal.
Scorers — Dublin: P McMahon 1-0, C Costello (2f) and K McManamon 0-3 each, C Kilkenny, D Rock, P Andrews and B Fenton 0-1 each
Donegal: P McBrearty 0-3 (0-1f), M Murphy, E McGee, R Kavanagh and O MacNiallais 0-1 each
Dublin: M Savage; P McMahon, J Cooper, David Byrne; J McCarthy, E Lowndes, J Small; B Fenton, D Bastick; K McManamon, P Flynn, C Kilkenny; C Costello, P Andrews, B Brogan. Subs: D Rock for Brogan (41), E O Conghaile for Bastick (45), SB Carthy for Lowndes (53), M Fitzsimons for Small (53), T Brady for Costello (59), D Daly for McManamon (69)
Donegal: MA McGinley; P McGrath, E McGee, C Gillespie; M O’Reilly, A Thompson, R McHugh; O MacNiallais, M Murphy; R Kavanagh, K Lacey, E McHugh; P McBrearty, L McLoone, H McFadden. Subs: M McHugh for McGrath (41), M McElhinney for McLoone (45), E Gallagher for Thompson (59), C Toye for McFadden (59), C McFadden for Lacey (65), M Carroll for Kavanagh (73)
Referee: C Lane (Cork)